I’ve yet another question on the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC). (I did find another instance of the gerundive—I believe with a preceding ad indicating purpose—and Cerebrus’ instruction certainly helped me translating that.)

The Latin text of the CCC, Prologue, Ch. 1, Sec. 3:

Illi qui, Deo iuvante, hanc vocationem Christi acceperunt eique libere responderunt, impulsi sunt et ipsi Christi amore ad Bonum Nuntium ubique terrarum proclamandum.

which is translated by the Vatican into English as:

Those who with God’s help have welcomed Christ’s call and freely responded to it are urged on by love of Christ to proclaim the Good News everywhere in the world.

My question regards the phrase «[impulsi sunt et] ipsi Christi amore». Is it more accurately translated as “[are urged on] by the love of Christ” (per Vaticanus) or “[are impelled] by the love in Christ [himself]” (per me)?

The question concerns the bolded word.

Also, is the et functioning as equivalent to the English “also”?

My proposed translation:

Those who, with the help of God, have accepted this calling of Christ and responded to it freely, are impelled by the love in Christ himself to proclaim the Good News everywhere in the world.

1 Answer 1


This is the big question! Genitives can be either subjective or objective, and sometimes it's impossible to know which one a genitive is.

Subjective genitives are the subject of the genitive. If this were a subjective genitive, it would mean more "Christ's love", i.e. the love that Christ has and gives.

Objective genitives are the object of the genitive. (Very creative terminology, I know!) For this case, "the love of Christ" doesn't mean the love that Christ has, but the love someone else has for Christ.

There's actually a parallel famous debate in Paul's letters. What does Paul mean when he says πίστις Χριστοῦ (pistis Christou = fides Christi = "faith of Christ"? Is he talking about how faithful Christ was, or does he refer to his and his contemporaries' faithfulness to Christ? It's a major distinction!

Unfortunately, it cannot be resolved so easily. There are some tendencies, such as in objective genitive constructions, the genitive usually precedes the object, but there is no hard and fast rule. You can mostly figure it out from context, but debates can, and do, rage on.

I'd say here, because Christi is first, it probably means "Christ's love," but as with plenty of instances in Latin, speakers might have had both meanings in mind when writing it, a purposeful ambiguity that exists in the language.

  • Silly me!!! I assumed because ipsi was dative that Christi was also dative; I translated it as “in Christ himself.” Obviously, that is not the case. My translation of “in Christ” would not be most accurate since Christi is declined in the genitive (as you stated correctly). Commented Dec 7, 2016 at 5:02
  • How is et ipsi to be understood then? Does it mean “they themselves are also impelled,” whereby ipsi is declined in the nominative, plural, matching impulsi? Commented Dec 7, 2016 at 5:16
  • @SimplyaChristian ipsi here is nominative masculine plural, modifying illi. You're right that it could be singular dative, but in this case that wouldn't make sense.
    – brianpck
    Commented Dec 7, 2016 at 15:42
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    I tend to lean toward the objective genitive in this context (their love of Christ), but the ambiguity is present in every language: the point is that the Latin really doesn't shed light on which is meant here. (For the record, the French and English editions were promulgated before the Latin one, even though the latter is now considered the editio typica.)
    – brianpck
    Commented Dec 7, 2016 at 15:44
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    @SimplyaChristian Yes, you (and brianpck) have it right. It's intensifying illi "they themselves", separated a bit. et seems to me to mean "also" here, too. It actually seems to me to be an example of unnecessary words creeping into what should be tight prose.
    – cmw
    Commented Dec 7, 2016 at 17:02

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